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Interesting, but no literary masterpiece
on January 11, 2015
America has had many “glory moments” in her short 239 year history, however the internment of American citizens of Japanese ancestry following the bombing of Pearl Harbor was definitely NOT one of them. More than 110,000 innocent people, many American-born citizens, men, women, children, elderly, were sent to internment camps that were barely a step above prison camps for the period between early 1942 and the end of the war in August 1945. Growing up in the 1950’s I had friends whose families had been interned, though I didn’t think much about it as a child. This short (208 pages) book is co-authored by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston, one who had first-hand experience of life in Manzanar, one of the ten major internment camps in the U.S., and her husband, James D. Houston. This book is not a literary masterpiece, hence only the 3-star rating, but it IS a book that provides an “up close and personal” narrative of an important chapter in the history of our nation. The author was only five years old when the family was first sent to Manzanar and her recollections are told through the eyes of that small child. What better means of viewing the world than through the eyes of a child, unclouded with the political “wisdom” gained through the experience of adulthood? There is no political statement being made in this book, no opinion on the rightness or wrongness of President Roosevelt’s decision to intern Japanese-Americans on the west coast, but simply a telling of life in the camp and its profound effect on one family. As such, it is a good read and I would like to see it as required reading for elementary school children. Beyond being an interesting portrayal of life in the camp from the point of view of a child, however, the book lacks any real depth. There is much that can be said on this topic, but this book leaves out the politics and controversy alone, as perhaps it should.